Carolyn Hill spoke on a Community Public Radio call-in show, WDIY 88.1 FM, in Allentown/Bethlehem on Sunday, February 24th about her tremendous struggle to regain custody of her two young nieces after the Philadelphia Department of Human Services wrongfully removed the children from her home because she does not have her GED. She has had an on-going battle with a system that is unjust, racist and seems bent on destroying low-income families.
Celyne Camen, of Every Mother is a Working Mother Network, joined her to discuss the wide-ranging implications of this case and how listeners can support Carolyn and the thousands of other woman in similar predicament. The pair also announced plans for Global Women’s Strike’s International Women’s Day event on Friday March 8th, Surviving Globally, Surviving in the US from 5-8pm at Tabernacle United Church in West Philadelphia.
The interview was aired on Basabi Basu’s radio show, Anjali – Music of India.
Facts regarding the removal of Carolyn Hill’s nieces from her care by Department of Human Services after they had been living with her for a year, and her attempts to be reunited with them.
- Ms Hill’s nieces were placed in her care by DHS, one on April 1, 2011 at age 5 months and the other on July 13, 2011 at age 1½ years after their parents’ rights were terminated. The girls were removed by DHS from Ms Hill’s home on April 3, 2012. At the time Ms Hill, their closest relative & primary caregiver, was on the path to adopting them.
- There were never any allegations of abuse and neglect and all parties agreed that the children were doing well with Ms Hill. There was no emergency or life threatening situation which would justify the children’s abrupt removal – and subsequent trauma they suffered of being placed in a stranger foster home.
- Ms Hill not having a GED was cited, as well as poor “cognitive skills” and “mental health issues”, in the removal of the children. Only 60% of Philadelphians graduate from high school, many of those who don’t are people of color. Criticizing a caregiver for the absence of a GED reflects a race and class bias – no one would dare to claim that they do not have a right to raise their children. A second psychological evaluation done in August showed very different results and approved Ms Hill as an adoptive resource — these findings have still not been presented in court.
- Ms Hill has never been allowed to speak in court, in violation of her rights as a foster parent, pre-adoptive parent and relative primary caregiver under federal and state law. The court thereby was denied the benefit of her knowledge and experience with the children in determining their “best interests”.
- At Family Group Decision Making meetings in July and August that were finally granted several months after the children were removed, the family, neighbors, friends and supporters who gathered were united in their support of Ms Hill as the caregiver as Plan A. But they agreed as a Plan B for the children to go to a more distant relative as a temporary measure so the children would not be in foster care with strangers. The findings of the FGDM have also not been presented to court to date.
- In response to the new FGDM, Parenting Capacity Evaluation and ongoing expression of concerns by the family/community, DHS has changed their position and stated in writing that they are now in support of the children being returned to Ms Hill’s care.
- Ms Hill has overwhelming support as demonstrated by an outpouring of letters to the DHS Commissioner following removal of the children from her home: State Rep. Tony Payton, her pastor and members of her church, family, neighbors, even a former DHS caseworker on her case, wrote asking for the children to be returned to Ms Hill. This show of support was virtually unprecedented according to Commissioner Ambrose.
- While the current caregiver has the children in fulltime daycare, Ms Hill would have the choice of either caring for the children fulltime at home or have them in full or part-time daycare. She would have flexibility in determining what would be best for the children, given the trauma they have been subjected to in their short lives. She is able to give the children her full attention and the consistency and stability of a home familiar to them.
- Ms Hill has filed an appeal concerning her standing in court and her wish to adopt the children.